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2014 Archive


Update: December 29, 2014

Alonzo Clemons Special Exhibit

Access Gallery in Denver, Colorado will host a show of Alonzo Clemons’ sculptures and oil paintings from January 16, 2015 to February 20, 2015. More about the event and a picture of Alonzo’s newest work “Sledgehammer, the magnificent Moose,” can be seen here.

In addition, the YMCA of Boulder Valley, where Alonzo has worked since 1992 has nominated him to the 2015 YMCA Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the community there.

Update: December 28, 2014

An update on Leslie Lemke

People often ask what ever happened to Leslie Lemke. Leslie is alive and well and playing as vigorously and creatively as ever. This column, “The Miracle of Leslie Lemke” from the Fond du Lac Reporter provides some background on his role in bringing savant syndrome to attention, and provides a follow-up on him as well.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: November 21, 2014

Amanda LaMunyon: Menagerie of Nature

Amanda LaMunyon, described in a profile on this site, is having a solo art exhibit at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, South Wing in New York City Nov. 1 – 30, 2014. You can read more about Amanda, and the exhibit, here.

In addition to being a very gifted artist, Amanda has been a great spokesperson and ambassador for public information about autism and savant syndrome.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: November 17, 2014

Mapping the wiring of the brain

Many suggest that autism, for example, is not a dysfunction of brain parts, but rather a manifestation of over- or under-connectivity. Beyond that, each person’s individuality in terms of memory, intelligence, certain skills and personality may depend on that person’s brain wiring.

A $30 million, five-year project to map all the connections of the human brain is underway at http://www.humanconnectome.org/. It will provide MRI scanning that is 10 times higher in spread and resolution than conventional systems. Even so, the brain complexity is such that this map will only be of the major highways and freeways, and not local streets. But coupled with the human genome mapping initiative, this project could shed light on both genetic and connectivity components in a number of brain disorders, including autism, and will advance knowledge of the role of connectivity in ordinary and extraordinary brain function, such as savant syndrome.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: September 28, 2014

Savant Syndrome: A brief summary

A column that provides a brief summary of savant syndrome recently appeared in the Clearwater Gazette. The only change would be regarding 100 being the number of known savants worldwide. That number 100 is used to refer only to the number of known “prodigious” savants. The number of known savants worldwide, including prodigious savants, would be much larger since one in 10 people with autism has some savant skills and savant syndrome occurs in other developmental disability and central nervous system disorders as well.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: July 18, 2014

Article on the Acquired Savant in Scientific American

The August, 2014 issue of Scientific American magazine contains an article by Dr. Treffert titled “Accidental Genius.” It explores recent findings on the acquired savant. Additional information about the article can be accessed here.

Update: June 26, 2014

Whatever happened to Leslie Lemke?

A recent Scientific American blog post brings the story of Leslie Lemke up-to-date. He is doing well and still playing and singing beautifully. His is a marvelous and inspiring story of the power of music, determination, love and human potential. Click here to read the blog post.

For more information about Leslie, click here to read a profile.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: Aril 24, 2014

Jason Padgett: An Acquired Savant

After Jason Padgett received a severe concussion in a mugging in 2002, he immediately began to see images that he then drew to show others what he was seeing. Four years later, in 2006, Jason saw a program on Daniel Tammet in which Dr. Treffert was interviewed. Jason called Dr. Treffert to find out if he had Acquired Savant Syndrome, which is described in detail on this site. (Click here to learn more.)

The images Jason saw and drew turned out to be complex fractals, entirely foreign to him (and many other people). Jason was never interested in drawing pre-injury, but his drawings now have become valuable art, and he has become a sophisticated mathematician as described in this April 20 New York Post article by Susannah Cahalan.

Jason is one of about 40 such known acquired savants in Dr. Treffert’s registry, and this case will no doubt bring others to attention. In his contacts with Dr. Treffert, Jason was reassured to find out about other acquired savants and that he was not “the only one.” He describes these contacts in detail in his book: “Struck by Genius.”

Update: April 18, 2014

A one-day online conference on Savant Syndrome

Once each month Autism Cymru—Wale’s pioneering National Charity for Autism—holds a one day online conference open to all, hosted by Adam Feinstein. On April 29, the conference will be on savant syndrome conducted by Dr. Treffert. Online participants can review his latest paper on the “Myths and Realities of Savant Syndrome,” and then ask questions online. Further description and registration information can be accessed at www.awares.org/conferences.

Update: April 14, 2014

Fran Peek: 1925-2014

It is with sadness I report that Fran Peek, Kim’s Dad, died April 5, 2014 in Salt Lake City. Kim preceded him in death in 2009. Together they were an inspiration to so many — Kim with his mountain of memory and Fran with his mountain of love and caring for, and about, Kim.

Kim always said he and his Dad “shared the same shadow.” And what a broad, enlightening and inspiring shadow it was. Fran and Kim were presenters at the 2008 Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation dinner and like Kim, those present will never forget that memorable night.

And I will never forget these two very good friends who will in my mind, always share the same inspiring shadow.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: April 2014

Origin of the term ‘idiot savant’: a correction

While at this time it really doesn’t matter since the obsolete term “idiot savant” fortunately has been replaced by savant syndrome, from an accurate historical perspective, origin of that term preceded Dr. J. Langdon Down’s use of it in his 1887 lectures and writings. Michelle Dawson points that out in her “The idiot savant story” blog which appeared in an April, 2012 posting in The Autism Crisis.

In that blog, Dawson points out that Edouard Seguin used the term “idiot savant” in an 1870 paper, and in 1875, in an article the British Medical Journal George W. Grabham refers to Seguin’s paper and takes issue with the fact that Seguin’s observation that “idiot savants” seemed to occur more often in the “wealthier classes;” Grabham found such cases also “from parents of humble circumstances” and felt there were some hereditary factors at work.

Dawson’s blog provides quotes from both Seguin and Grabham’s articles, which point out the differences between them with respect to “classes” and savant syndrome. What I found most interesting though is Seguin’s description of savant skills in his day: “musical, mathematical, architectural and other varieties of the idiot savant: the useless protrusion of a single faculty, accompanied by a woeful general impotence.” Those are the same special skills seen today.

Grabham’s description of savant skills is equally descriptive and colorful: “one or more faculties are amazingly developed perhaps to the detriment of the rest. One has a marvelous power of acquiring languages and musical knowledge; another great mechanical skill and original constructive ability; a third, though very childish, is no mean mental arithmetician; a fourth remembers all he reads; a fifth delights in dates; while a sixth can tell the time when awakened from sleep.” Those also are the same special skills seen in modern times.

In his lectures and writings Down never claimed to have coined the term “idiot savant;” in fact he described his dislike of it. It would be more proper then to indicate Down “used” the term already created to describe his 10 cases of savant syndrome. I am indebted to Michelle Dawson for doing the more extensive background on the term, and apologize to Seguin and Grabham for missing their earlier use of the term and their interesting discussion of the condition.

In my 1980 review article in The American Journal of Psychiatry, “The Idiot Savant: A Review of the Syndrome” I suggested the term “savant syndrome” replace the outdated term “idiot savant.” Fortunately, that has taken place and “idiot savant” can be seen now only in its historical perspective.

—Darold Treffert, MD

Update: March 2014

Savant Syndrome: Realities, Myths and Misconceptions

The March 2014 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders contains Dr. Treffert’s review article on the “Realities, Myths and Misconceptions of Savant Syndrome.” (2014;Vol 44[Issue 3]:564-571.)

Update: January 30, 2014

Islands of Genius available now in Arabic and Czech

Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant has been translated into Arabic and Czech. The Arabic translation is published by Arab Scientific Publishers in Lebanon. A 10-minute DVD is included with the Arabic version, which provides video footage of a number of savants highlighted in the text.

Update: January 27, 2014

Lost in Autism, found by golf

An article titled “Lost in Autism, found by golf” by Claudia Mazzucco appeared in the July, 2013 issue of GOLFDIGEST.COM. In it, she tells of her remarkable progress overall, since being diagnosed with autism as a child, as well as her progress vocationally.

Mazzucco found golf courses very quiet and tranquil and walked them often. Her “captivation with numbers” and “photographic memory for dates and names” was the perfect combination to record scores of every player, in every round, in every major tournament in Argentina as a class project. In so doing, she became the official librarian at the Argentina Golf Association. She also learned English, much of it from instruction articles in golf magazines. She now also teaches an online history course to apprentices seeking to join the PGA of Argentina.